The subject of Islam and feminism is a very wide and delicate topic that has so many faces to it. If a poll is done to ask Muslim women what they think about feminism, diverse opinions would be heard. Some may say that the feminism ideology is compatible with Islam; some others would say that Islam already preaches feminism; others may say that it is forbidden to be a feminist as a Muslim –it is tantamount to disbelief; and others would tell you that they believe that feminism is just a label –and no different from what Islam teaches so the label should be avoided.
Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Wikipedia defines feminism as a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.
From the above definitions, one thing that is clear is that feminism seeks to establish the equality of both sexes.
Feminism is said to have started around the 19th and early 20th centuries which was focused on overturning legal inequalities, particularly addressing issues of women’s suffrage.
WOMEN IN ISLAM
But what does Islam have to say about equality of the sexes?
The Qur’an says:
“Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer –We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do” [An-Nahl: 97] The above verse establishes that a man and woman are equal in the sight to Allah in regards to worshipping Him and earning rewards.
“Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so –for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.”[Surah Al-Ahzab: 35]
This is one of the best verses of the Qur’an that shows the equality of men and women in worship.
So 1400 years ago, before the Modern Western Feminism Movement started, Islam had already given women their rights by establishing that they are both equal in the sight of Allah.
But Islam recognizes that biologically, men and women are not the same. For obvious reasons. Men and women differ physically, emotionally and intellectually, and these differences must be respected.
OPINONS ON ISLAM AND FEMINISM
Muslims have different opinions about Islam and feminism, and the role feminism has to play in Islam. Below are some of them from well-known individuals on their opinion of the subject.
“What we so often forget is that God has honored women by giving them value in relation to God –not in relation to men. But as western feminism erases God from the scene, there is no standard left but men. As a result, the Western feminist is forced to find her value in relation to a man. And in so doing, she has accepted a faulty assumption. She has accepted that man is the standard, and thus a woman can never be a full human being until she becomes just like a man –the standard.” –Yasmin Mogahed
“The major biological differences between men and women mean that the two sexes do not duplicate each other, each fighting to fulfill the same roles and behaving in the same manner. Instead they complement each other, exercising their own particular strengths and mitigating their partner’s weaknesses.” –Dr. Shuaib Hasan
“Many people have the misconception that taking on the label of, or identifying with feminism in any way, is rejecting Islam. It’s because I believe Islam is the perfect, most just and wholesome solution that I chose the name I did –the Salafi Feminist. I am a feminist because I believe that women deserve better, that our ummah is plagued with numerous spiritual diseases that manifest in terrible ways, particularly with regards to how Muslim women are viewed and treated, both by religious teachers and the masses. Islam is perfect, Muslims aren’t. Feminism is what I use to describe my personal focus on a cause of advocating for women’s rights, and bringing about positive change for both men and women.” –Zainab bint Younus (The Salafi Feminist)
“A ‘feminist theology’ also presupposes the idea that there is some congruence or compatibility between feminism and Islam. However, it can be observed that feminist reformists have themselves realized that certain feminist ideas cannot be satisfied solely through the interpretation of texts, and the feminist complaint now relates to more than simply the interpretation of sources, but rather the sources themselves, i.e. the Qur’an and Prophetic Tradition. The mere fact that some opt to call themselves ‘Muslim Feminists’ is not proof that Islam and feminism are compatible, but that humans are capable of cognitive dissonance. One of the greatest ironies is that such feminists regularly affirm, through their own work, that feminism and Islam are not compatible unless Islam changes to fit feminist ideas, rendering the notion of a ‘feminist theology’ an impossible one, let alone of utility.” –Zara Faris (Women’s Rights without Feminism)
“Like other women in the world, Muslim women live subject to the degree of development in their respective societies and their own set of discrimatory rules. Unfortunately, the presence in the mainstream religious arena of a common set of ‘religious data’ and understanding has become the source of cultural discrimination against Muslim women. From where does this ‘unquestionable’ universal image of Islam as a religion that oppresses women, and inevitably hinders their emancipation, originate? It cannot be repeated often enough that it is not Islam as a spiritual message that oppresses women. It is rather the never-reformed legal provisions and interpretations, endorsed for centuries by Muslim scholars (‘ulama), which have displaced the sacred text and transformed it into inflexible religious laws.” –Asma Lamrabet
What we need to understand is that Islam and Feminism are two different ideals for two different categories of people –Muslims and non-Muslims. Sure, Islam shares the same ideals with some parts of feminism. But while Islam is a religion and a way of life believed to have come from Allah through His prophet (S.A.W); feminism is an idea that came from the western world around the 19th century that sought to fight for women’s rights.
When feminism started, it was not by Muslim women –it was by western women. They had fewer rights than us. As about 1400, our rights had already been given to us by Islam. We as Muslim women already had the right to vote, right to choose one’s own husband, rights to initiate divorce, right to own properties, inheritance rights, rights to seek education, rights to express one’s views and opinions, and the right to exist as an independent human being –and not have to take her husband’s name after marriage.
Feminism was started by women who wanted the same rights that we already had –in their own country.
So anytime a Muslim woman is not getting her rights, we should fight for it based on our Allah-given rights –with reference from the Qur’an and Sunnah, not by an idea that was founded not too long ago.
We all know that Islam is a perfect and complete way of life –it does not require any addition and subtraction from it with our limited minds as humans. Allah, being our Creator has perfected our religion for us, and He having no limited perception to how life should be (I seek refuge in Allah), but knows what is best for us already –tells us to follow His law, in order to live a good life in this world, and a better one in the akirah.
So as Muslim women, it is always best for us to study and learn our religion, so that no one would convince us with what is not true, and so that we can know and defend our God-given rights, and fulfill our God-given responsibilities.
The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) once said: “Acquiring knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim” (At-Tabarani)
Thank you for reading this post. I hope you learnt something. Yesterday was IWD 2019 so
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY! Have opinions to share on feminism and Islam ? click here to join the conversation on our instastory . ☺
Lamrabet, A. (2012). “Women and Men in the Qur’an” Switzerland: The Palgrave Macmillan
Dr. Shuaib Hasan (2004). “The Rights and Duties of Women in Islam” Riyadh: Darussalam
Zara Faris. (2018). “Do Muslims Need a Feminist Theology?” Retrieved from: www.zarafaris.com/2018/01/11/do-muslims-need-a-feminist-theology/
Ashiya Mendheria (2018). “Patriarchy in the Qur’an and Sunnah, Female Scholarship and Self-Love: In Conversation with the Salafi Feminist” Retrieved from: www.thesalafifeminist.blogspot.com for Amalia.com
A question to Yasmin Mogahed stating; “On March 18, 2005 Amina Wadud led the first female-led Jumu’ah prayer. On that day, women took a huge step towards being more like men. But, did we come closer to actualizing our God-given liberation?” Rerieved from: www.therevival.co.uk/forum/general/7951#comment-170891 Source: Unknown.